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Dublin: 9°C Monday 26 October 2020

'It's like a fairytale' - The Irish mother travelling to see her daughter play in AFLW Grand Final

Ailish Considine and the Adelaide Crows will take on Carlton in the decider this weekend.

WHEN CLARE DUAL-star Ailish Considine first relocated to Australia to pursue her Aussie Rules dream, her mother made her a promise. 

Ailish Considine Considine in action for Clare. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Considine had signed a deal with the Adelaide Crows club for the AFLW season after impressing at an international camp, and she was eager for her mother Kay to come out for a visit.

It’s a long way from West Clare to Adelaide, and initially, Kay was reluctant to make the journey.

But Ailish was persistent. And as time went on, all the signs were indicating that the Kilmihil woman would be booking a flight to Australia.

“I said, ‘look if you get to the final, I’ll go out,’ never even thinking she’d get a game,” Kay thought to herself at the outset of her daughter’s AFLW adventure.

“The Crows wanted to fly us out at Christmas time but Ailish came home instead and I said, ‘Oh my God, I wouldn’t be able for that journey, not at my age.’

“And then a few weeks ago, a neighbour who would be good friends with my mother and is in his 80′s, he flew out to Adelaide.

“He lived in Australia for a lot of his life and he met up with Ailish in Adelaide. So, she said, ‘If he can fly at 84, you can fly,” she laughs.

On the night she speaks to The42, Kay is making the final preparations for that trip she didn’t think would ever happen.

She’s quick to stress that she “doesn’t like the limelight” but within seconds of answering the call, she’s at ease while talking about her accomplished daughter. The sports gene is strong in the Considine household but Kay’s modest tone belies the talent among her children.

In addition to Ailish’s exploits in Australia, her other daughter Eimear is an Irish international rugby player who previously won an All-Ireland intermediate title with the Clare ladies footballers.

And while Kay appreciates that results and silverware are important to her kids, their safety is her primary concern whenever they take to the field.

Eimear Considine Eimear Considine in action for Ireland. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“My biggest thing, and it’s always been my biggest thing, is that they come through safely. I would be the same whether they’re playing football or camogie, rugby or Australian football. Just so long as they don’t get hurt, that’s always the big thing for me.

I know the result is important for them but it isn’t as important for me. The most important thing is that she’s safe after it.”

Ailish was no stranger to the AFLW when she first signed up for the inaugural Premiership champions. She had previously played for West Clare Waves and the Irish Banshees [the women's national team].

Kay doesn’t quite understand all the playing rules, but she’s developed a certain sense of familiarity by extension of Ailish’s involvement in the sport over the years.

Following an almost flawless campaign, the Adelaide Crows are back in the Grand Final and Ailish has played a major role in helping them book their place in the decider. She kicked two goals in the last three weeks of the season, having been dropped for their Round 6 clash with the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants.

Given the prolific form Considine is showing in front of goal lately, she’s almost certain to make an appearance in the decider at some stage after making the match-day squad.

Adelaide secured their spot in the Grand Final after defeating the Geelong Cats in the Preliminary Final last weekend. The quick turnaround didn’t give Kay long to arrange the flights, but she will be watching on in the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.

Starting in Shannon Airport, Kay and her son Keith travelled to Heathrow and Dubai before touching down in sunny Adelaide just before the weekend. 

Ailish didn’t know it, but Eimear tagged along with them and gave her sister quite the shock when she arrived for a surprise visit at the airport.

“I’m overwhelmed and excited,” says Kay.

It’s been such a whirlwind, it’s actually kind of crazy. When I finished work yesterday evening, I had to head down to Limerick to pick up a few presents that Ailish wanted me to get, but oh my God, I haven’t had a minute.

“It’s absolutely amazing. It’s been absolutely crazy. It’s brilliant, all the good wishes and everything. It’s amazing.”

There’s certainly been a groundswell of local support for Ailish in the build-up to the final, and another Kilmhil native was hoping he could go to the Grand Final.

image1 Mike Currane would love to be at the Grand Final, but he's had to concede defeat that he won't make it. Source: Mike Currane

Mike Currane of AFLW Ireland grew up just a few miles away from the Considine household and has known Ailish from a young age.

He knew her as a West Clare Waves player and was her head coach when she first joined the Banshees.

Her potential to thrive as an AFLW player was obvious to him from the outset.

“I remember Ailish just came onto the pitch and I handed her a Sherrin and said, ‘Kick it.’ And that was it, the rest is history.

She scored 17 goals on that first blitz day in Dublin and won three or four competitions with West Clare Waves. She went on to play for the Irish Banshees, I was lucky to be her head coach on that team as well.”

Currane was instrumental in Considine landing an AFLW contract.

When the aforementioned international camp took place in Melbourne last year, Currane travelled with her and the other Irish players who were selected to take part. The camp was co-ordinated by the CrossCoders programme, and Currane was their Irish point of contact.

As it turned out, Donegal’s Yvonne Bonner was selected by GWS Giants, Tipperary forward Aisling McCarthy linked up with the Western Bulldogs, and Collingwood signed Mayo star Sarah Rowe.

Currane suspected that Considine had a strong chance of getting picked up by a club on account of her playing experience.

And when the Crows presented her with a deal, he was there to see Considine put pen to paper.

Currane has been with her almost every step of the way so far, but he can’t be there for the Grand Final.

I literally spent the last three days [trying to get there] and I’ve had to make a call that I’m not going to be able to make it.

“As much as I’d love to, I’m not going to be over there. I’ll watch it live here in the office for sure.

“It’s expensive and a long journey but that wasn’t even a factor, I’d have gone at the drop of a hat. I just wasn’t able to sort stuff with work and that. I’m absolutely delighted that her Mam and brother are going and her family will be there to share the occasion with her.”

“I’ll be dropping her a message and keeping in touch with her.”

Currane has watched all of the Crows’ games this season, keeping a particular eye on Considine’s performances. 

He’s been in regular contact with her throughout and while he could tell that her confidence took a knock after getting dropped, he wasn’t surprised to see her roar back into contention in the next round.

AFLW CROWS CATS Considine has been a consistent performer for the Crows so far this season. Source: AAP/PA Images

“She’s been very consistent all the way through from their practice matches. She’s doing everything right. She probably had her poorest performance in Round 5 against the Kangaroos and was dropped for the following round.

“She was devastated at that so it was great to see her back in Round 7 against the Melbourne Demons and she got those two goals in literally two minutes.

“That’s a huge monkey off her back as well. I know how much she’s a natural forward and she was probably playing a bit deeper in some of the other games so it was fantastic she got her name on the scoreboard.”

Of course, there was some uncertainty around her availability for the final while she was being assessed, but Currane always felt confident that she would get the green light.

Kay knows that her daughter doesn’t practise rough play when she’s on the field, but she jokingly remarks that Ailish was more physical than normal in the Preliminary Final.

“I don’t know where I got her because I’m a stresser, she never stresses. She was saying not to book the flights because of the review for the tackle, and she says, ‘But don’t stress.’ 

“It wasn’t a deliberate tackle. Even in football, Ailish wouldn’t be known [for rough play], I think she got one yellow card in her life. She wouldn’t be known as a dirty player anyway.

She was a bit vigorous in her tackle now the last day, I saw an aggression in her I hadn’t seen before.”

The Adelaide Crows have lost just one game this season on the way to the Grand Final. That one-point defeat to the Western Bulldogs came back in the opening round, and since then, the Crows have come through most of their games by comfortable winning margins.

Even their Preliminary Final opponents Geelong Cats were 66 points adrift of them at the end of the clash.

Currane is confident that they can reclaim the Premiership title they won two years ago, but in the same breath, he warns that “nothing is guaranteed” in a Grand Final.

The Crows defeated the other finalists Carlton earlier this year, and repeating that feat in the decider will be a huge challenge for the Adelaide side.

AFLW CROWS BULLDOGS The Kilmihil native putting in a good tackle for the Crows. Source: AAP/PA Images

Up to now, Kay has been mainly watching replay footage of Ailish’s games. The time difference “is a bit of a bugger,” meaning she couldn’t catch the live coverage of the ties.

Luckily, she won’t have that problem this Sunday as she prepares to take her seat among the crowd to hopefully watch her daughter get some game time.

She made a promise at the start of this journey and she intends to keep it.

It’s amazing, it’s like a fairytale and unbelievable really,” Kay says.

“Ailish has said this umpteen times that there’s no words for it and there are no words for how we’re feeling about it all.”

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